If your bathroom cabinet is filled with wrinkle creams, you're not alone. Americans spend more than $12 billion each year trying to reverse the signs of aging [source: Simon]. But you'd be better off investing in a little education about your skin. Understanding what causes skin wrinkles can help you minimize them and make the right health choices.
The sun is the single most important factor in skin wrinkles, taking credit for 90 percent of the damage to your skin. Although people with lighter complexions may be most at risk, no type of skin is safe. In fact, 50 to 80 percent of skin damage caused by the sun occurs in childhood [source: Simon]. Good sun protection should be a habit developed early on, therefore, and applying sunscreen before going outdoors can help reduce wrinkles.
Another cause of premature skin aging is smoking, which damages the skin's collagen, causes inflammation, and leaves telltale lines around the mouth. Smokers are five times more likely to have wrinkled facial skin than non-smokers [source: Simon].
Air pollution, smog and toxins in the air can also wreak havoc on your skin by breaking down vitamin E, a necessary vitamin for your skin's health. Your parents also influence how you age, since genetics play a role in when you'll begin seeing crow's feet around your eyes and laugh lines around your mouth.
Finally, of course, there is the natural process of aging. As skin ages, it loses its ability to defend itself against the sun, smoking and the environment. Cells divide more slowly in older skin, making the dermis thinner and less able to hold moisture. The hypodermis, the part of our skin where fat is stored, begins to loosen. Your skin becomes less elastic, losing the ability to stretch and spring back into a firm position.
As you age, however, it's possible to bolster your skin's defenses. To find out whether sleep can help you avoid face wrinkles or actually make them worse, read on.